Monday, July 19, 2010

The Home Away from Home

Pocahontas-Sheva Apelbaum

You planned a camping trip, but your car breaks down on the side of the road. With nothing but wilderness around you, and no cell phone reception, you need food and shelter and a way to stay dry. What do you do?

You call 1-800-Get-Me-Outta-Here?

No, silly. Besides,  you don’t have any cell phone reception. So what do you do? You build a place to sleep for the night. 

This summer, I am taking a class called Wilderness Survival. In this course, we learn all types of survival skills.  Last week, we learned how to build a debris hut. A debris hut is a shelter made with a lot of insulation to keep you warm during cold nights. A debris hut should be a small structure with only 6 inches of extra space around you. The main goal of the hut is to trap your body heat and keep you warm.

To build a debris hut, you will need:

- Several large branches, twigs, and logs if you can find them
- Pine needles, leaves or any other vegetation (but watch out for poisonous plants, such as poison ivy and poison oak).

Debris Hut-Sheva ApelbaumYou will need to find a flat area (preferably on the top of the hill) to build your debris hut. Once you have found the location, you then need to make an upside down “V” shape with two large branches. Do not make the opening to large because then the entire hut will be too large and you will not be able to heat it up. Take another long branch and lay it on top of the opening.  Then slowly build up other sticks and twigs along the opening. You will need to cover the hut with pine needles, or leaves, that’s the insulation. You should cover your hut with enough leaves that no sunlight can be seen from the inside.

Wilderness Survival Debris Hut sideview by Sheva ApelbaumAnother important piece of advice, is that if you are camping in a remote area, you should always carry a survival kit.  My kit has a knife, mirror, compass, “strike anywhere” matches (or a magnesium block), a thermal blanket, an axe,  a diamond saw,  first aid supplies, a waterproof flashlight with extra batteries, flares, and at least 3-6 heavy duty plastic garbage bags. The garbage bags are excellent for draping over your hut to make it waterproof.

Survival kit-Sheva Apelbaum
My Survival Kit 

Now that you have built your sustainable hut, you must be very thirsty and hungry. But before you drink any water or cook food you will have to light a fire.  In my next posting I will teach you how to do that.


  1. You are back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    AND - immediately you made me speechless!!
    For a while, and then you got me thinking seriously! I have to get this survival kit!! All those times we went to the desert and the other Israeli wildernesses without it!!! Unthinkable!
    And I have to practice in the garden to make such an insulation hut!
    Thank you so much for your advises! In case of no cell phone reception emergency they could save us!!!
    Some tip from me: Put some chocolate and a few waffles in that kit! Maybe a box of humus and sardines? Oh, of course, and a can opener! A little toilet paper perhaps? Naaa...

  2. nice to know if you're with me and we get lost WE WILL SURVIVE! Love your posts!

  3. Sheva, as you know I got to see that hut that you built and I thought it was AWEsome. I couldn't believe my eyes! And the fact that you have to build it so close to your body is, of course, absolutely genius. I was struck by the fact that they are clearly not deep enough for you to lie with your legs outstretched. Why is that?

  4. Thank you for all of your GREAT (and funny) comments. I am sorry that I have been away for a while, but I am now back!!!

    Yael: Your idea for putting chocolate, hummus, toilet paper, and a can opener are great ideas! As for a survival kit, it is very easy to collect nessecary items and put them in the back of your car (in case you are driving).

    Liz: If we ever get lost, all I have to say is let it be somewhere tropical and warm, with sandy beaches, blue water, and room service because that's the way you've gotta go, if you gotta go. :)

    GlazedOver (aka Mom): Thank you for such nice feedback. The reason for making the hut so small is because you need to tuck your legs in. If your legs are stretched out, then your body heat will not have to spread throughout your body and be more easily lost. But if your legs are closer to your body, then you stay warmer.